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GM Canada president says electric vehicles are the future — but they won’t be made in Oshawa

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GM Canada’s president says “there isn’t anything to build” after 2019 at the company’s Oshawa plant as the automaker bets big on electric and autonomous vehicles. There will be new GM jobs in Ontario, he says — just not on that long-running assembly line.

Travis Hester, an Australian, was just eight months into his new job as president of the automaker’s Canadian operation when he had to defend a change that will thrust 2,500 employees out of work and change a city that has been churning out vehicles for GM for decades.

Did he know back in April, when he arrived in Canada, that he would oversee the shuttering of the Oshawa plant?

“No, no,” he said in an exclusive interview, his first since the closure announcement last week. The decision to close the facility, which he said was made in Detroit, came down late this fall.

Hester, who has worked for GM in the U.S, Australia and China, is now facing a battle with a union that wants to save jobs, and the plant. 

“There’s not going to be any discussions with General Motors about what this orderly wind down looks like as it will be anything but orderly,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said last Friday.

But more than a week after news of the impending shutdown, GM continues to assert there is no alternative — no matter how great the pressure from the union or the governments that helped bail out the automaker in the last financial crash.

‘We don’t have any allocation’

The auto executive says he’s made it “very clear” to both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau that “we don’t have any allocation” for a vehicle at the Oshawa plant going forward.

“So it’s very difficult to have a discussion on anything beyond December 2019 because there isn’t anything to build,” said Hester as he toured CBC News through GM’s new technology centre in Markham, north of Toronto.

As GM cuts thousands of manufacturing jobs in Canada, it’s hiring software engineers and coders to help develop its vehicles of the future. The company wants to transform operations to focus on electric and autonomous vehicles and Hester said Canada has a place at the core of that development. 

GM opened a new Canadian Technology Centre (CTC) last January and has hired 450 employees, with plans for 500 more by 2020, many coming straight out of Canadian universities.

“We’re adding jobs and we’re adding development expertise and all the associated things that go with that into Canada, where it just simply wasn’t in the past,” Hester said.

He said the high-tech centre in Markham will keep growing, pulling in talent here and around the world. 

“We see the future very strong here and in Canada for the development side.”

‘We believe that battery-electric vehicles will be the vehicles of the future,’ GM Canada’s president says. 1:08

Demand for electric vehicles is just a small fraction of the current market right now. Hester, however, is optimistic that the growth will come.

Whether it’s regulatory requirements or consumer-driven change, he said GM believes “battery-electric vehicles will be the vehicles of the future.”

That vision is likely cold comfort to the Oshawa plant workers, who won’t get a crack at engineering electric cars. GM Canada has said it will help retrain some workers from the Oshawa plant for other work such as auto technician jobs in GM dealerships. 

“What’s happening now in Oshawa is very tough,” Hester said. “So as much as we are transforming the future we’re still paying a lot of attention to what we’ve got.”

Barra facing backlash

GM’s CEO Mary Barra, meanwhile, is under increasing pressure in the U.S., where thousands more manufacturing jobs will be lost. Barra has faced pressure from many — including the U.S. president — to reverse course, particularly on the plant slated to close in Ohio. She’s agreed to meet Wednesday in Washington with some senators who are strongly urging her to reconsider the plan.

On another front, the UAW union in the U.S. is preparing to fight GM, accusing it of reneging on a commitment to put a moratorium on plant closures for the life of the current contract, which ends in 2020.

The union in Canada is making the same accusation.
 
“We’ve seen that document, and we don’t believe the document states we can’t do that,” Hester said Monday, refusing to elaborate on the details in advance of discussions with the union.

Unifor leader Jerry Dias has lambasted GM for the job cuts in Oshawa, where workers have been making cars for the company for decades. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Unifor’s president said late last week that he thinks the company is trying to turn the dial away from the anger that followed the news of the Oshawa closure.
 
“They thought they would pacify the Canadian public by opening up the tech sector and then there would have been minimum noise at shut down,” Dias said on Friday.
 
“When they were opening the tech centre we said, ‘This is a wonderful initiative but don’t think that somehow this is going to replace their place of manufacturing jobs in Oshawa.’ And so that’s exactly how this thing came down.”

Fear around faltering demand

Closing Oshawa has raised new fears that if consumer demand falters in the future, GM might lean on its other two Ontario plants. But the Canadian boss said there are no changes planned for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll or the St. Catharines facility, which makes engines and transmissions.

“So these are going to be unchanged and continuing for the immediate future,” said Hester.

No changes planned in Ingersoll or St. Catharines 0:42

GM’s future in Canada will be a mix, he said, of growth in new technology and software development, along with existing manufacturing.

But all this will go forward without Oshawa’s flexible assembly plant, which was built in a way that allows it to be retooled.

Hester said the company doesn’t have enough volume to fill all the plants as demand for sedans falls.

“I don’t think you could put anything else in Oshawa,” he said. “Not without spending incredible amounts of investment, which would make it not viable.”

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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